Our first daughter was born during the first lockdown in 2020, into a world of uncertainty and after a long battle with infertility and IVF treatment. We live in Norway, so the system is different to what we’re used to in the UK, as is the language. My husband wasn’t allowed to join me for the first part of labour last time and thanks to an overly anxious mind, not eating anything for the whole duration and hardly moving, I had a long and tough labour of over 30 hours. I ended up with an epidural after 15 hours of active labour, which led to the usual cascade of interventions at the end of the road due to a ‘failure to progress’ - oxytocin drip, coached pushing on my back because my body was exhausted, an episiotomy, the ventouse and just over 1L of blood lost. Although I had felt informed throughout, I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in the outcome as I found it incredibly overwhelming and it took a long time to come to terms with. I was keen that if I was ever to give birth again, that the second one be a better experience.
Fast forward 10 months and by complete surprise, we found out that we were pregnant again! This time, with no help needed from science! Pregnancy was pretty smooth, with the exhaustion being the hardest part, thanks to having a baby/toddler to look after. I had pretty bad pelvic pain for much of it too, but found an excellent pelvic specialist chiropractor, who really helped, especially in the final weeks.
I really wanted this birth to be different to Maia’s. Although we got our gorgeous girl at the end of it, I felt so out of control in those final moments and the more I read and educated myself during this pregnancy, the more I realised that the path I had been on had made interventions almost an inevitability. Thanks to hospital policy and arbitrary timings, I began to understand that my difficult birth was most likely nothing to do with me ‘failing to progress’ and everything to do with my environment and the ‘options’ that were presented to me.
I spent the last few weeks of pregnancy religiously reading positive birth stories and following some brilliant Instagram accounts that were focused on empowering women and their birthing partners through pregnancy and birth. I loved listening to pregnancy-focused meditation tracks in those weeks waiting for baby and felt like a positive birth was much more achievable this time around.
As our first daughter was born at 39+6, I was sure that this one would be punctual too. So I was completely thrown when my due not only came and went, but seemed to become a distant memory! Despite having been 2cm dilated since week 38, nothing was happening. Talks of induction started to come up and I began to feel like it was inevitable. My hopes for a natural, positive birth seemed to be going out the window and I shed more than a few tears at the thought of being pushed into an induction.
At 41+1, I had an appointment with the hospital to check all was well with baby and I. As I’d had a low risk pregnancy, they were happy for me to go to 42 weeks, but they offered me a sweep, which I accepted. I went home, excited that this might start things, but despite the odd cramp here and there, nothing happened. I had also gone to this appointment thinking I was 41+4 and that we’d be drawing up a plan for the end of the week. In hindsight, I’m very glad that wasn’t the case! I was due back at the hospital at 41+6 to discuss next steps and schedule my induction. At 41+5, still having nothing more than the odd twinge here and there, I decided to try one last time and booked myself in for prenatal acupuncture with a private midwife company. It turned out, the midwife that was doing it was actually my first midwife when I was in labour before! I took that as a good omen and she was really reassuring that if I did need to be induced, the procedures in Norway are very gentle and give you lots of chances to get started naturally, before they progress to the dreaded drip. She also offered me a sweep and managed to stretch me to 3cm and gave me some exercises to do with the birthing ball to help baby into a better position. I went home feeling much more positive and spent the rest of the day relaxing, doing the exercises on the ball and feeling somewhat achy.
After putting our daughter to bed, we sat down to watch something uplifting on the tv and I noticed that i was getting the odd contraction. I’d been having Braxton hicks in the evenings for weeks, but these felt a little more intense and I could follow the sensation of my uterus tightening throughout each one. It was like a wave moving up my stomach before it released again. They weren’t coming in any particular pattern and weren’t getting closer together, so I tried to ignore them so as not to get my hopes up. I timed them with the app to verify that they were actually happening, but didn’t want to get Murrays hopes up. We went to bed around 11.30 and I went off to my room, saying I’d see my husband in the morning (I was sleeping in our ‘soft’ bed upstairs to help my hips). The last thing I did before bed, which I had never done before, after reading a positive birth story, was just have a quiet little word with my lady in my tummy. Asking her to come today and that we were so excited to meet her. I said goodnight to her and tried to get some rest.
At about 1am, I was woken up by some definite sharp sensations. I spent about an hour in bed trying to get some rest in between them as I was pretty sure that things were starting and I didn’t want to waste all my energy at the beginning. But by 2, they were too uncomfortable and I couldn’t stay laying down any longer so got up to go through to the living room to try and take my mind off things. I had a couple of loose bowel movements and some of my plug came away, so I was sure this was it and I started to time my contractions. By 2.30, they were already coming every 3-4 minutes and I was only really comfortable if I was standing and moving my hips through them. I went and told my husband that things were kicking off, but didn’t need him just yet and I’d come and get him when I needed the support.
By 3.30am, the contractions were becoming increasingly tough to manage alone and I felt I needed some physical touch to get me through the peaks. As they were now coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting a minute, we called the hospital, who told us to come in since it was our second birth and it sounded like things were moving fairly quickly. My husband woke our daughter and collected all her things so that he could take her over to our friend’s who was going to look after her for us. I tried to get dressed and collect the final items in between surges, breathing and circling my hips through each one.
Finally he got back and we were ready to make the 15 minute journey to the hospital. Surges were still coming thick and fast, so the ride was pretty intense, but listening to hypnobirthing affirmations reminded me to relax, keep my body soft and just breathe through each one. It was 5am by the time we got to the hospital and made our way to the midwife led unit on the 7th floor. It was very quiet and our lovely midwife couldn’t even introduce herself without me hanging off my husband through a contraction! She showed us straight to a room, clearly convinced I was fully in established labour, which I was very relieved about because I had no idea how I was going to get through 20 minutes of monitoring before being admitted.
Once in the room, she turned off all the lights and I paced and moved around the room, trying to find a position that meant i could get through a surge. My husband tried the double hip squeeze technique, which was really helpful at the peak of each one and otherwise was great at just reminding me to relax my face and body during each contraction. After about half an hour, I was really beginning to struggle with the intensity of each one. They were so powerful and coming less than 60 seconds apart, that I couldn’t keep my calm. My breathing definitely sped up and I started to doubt my ability to do this naturally if I wasn’t close to the end (little did I know!!). I asked the midwife to perform an internal exam, but being on the bed for it was hellish! She said I was 5cm, which felt like a bit of a blow and I had a bit of a wobble and asked for some gas and air, so she went to get a mask.
My surges were starting to feel a little pushy at their peak, but as I knew I was only 5cm, I tried to just breathe through the urge. Using the horse lips technique helped to take some of the power out of them when they were at the peak. Still, resisting the pushing was almost impossible! I thought perhaps it was because my waters still hadn’t burst, so I decided to try and go for a pee and hoped that would help. While in the loo, I started making some pretty guttural noises and realised my body was really pushing now. Just as I was about to leave I felt a rush of liquid and thought it was my water, but when I looked down, it was blood. I went back into the room to tell the midwife, who, clearly a little concerned (though still very calm) asked if she could examine me again. I couldn’t stay still and no way could I get on the bed, so she did it standing up. Not 10 minutes since my last exam and she told me I was 9.5cm!! I couldn’t believe it!! The urge to push was real and so strong and she encouraged me to go with my body.
She was checking baby’s heart rate with a Doppler and for a couple of contractions, it dropped pretty low after each one. They asked if I would mind getting on the bed and doing a little pushing, rather than breathing baby down as they wanted her here. I agreed as they allowed me to be sat upright with my knees at my chest, so I wasn’t laying on my back. This type of pushing still felt less intense and overwhelming than when I was on oxytocin last time. I had a few strong contractions, which I pushed through and I could feel her descending. Such a weird feeling! They were applying a warm compress to my perineum and I could feel she was close to arriving, so that really spurred me on. Everyone was cheering me on, but no one was coaching me to push, they were just letting me work with my body and baby. The ring of fire was unmistakable and the midwife asked me to hold her there for a minute or two. Thankfully, that next contraction was a slow one to appear and holding her there while breathing deeply was easy. With a couple more tiny pushes, her head popped out and I could see it between my legs! I felt her shoulders turn and with the next contraction, the rest of her followed onto the bed. I couldn’t believe I’d done it! I picked her up and put her on my chest and just laughed. I’d birthed my baby without so much as a paracetamol! As a naturally anxious person, who likes control of her environment, I never thought I would be able to surrender to my body and just let it do its amazing thing. Especially since I have a phobia of vomit and being sick and spent a lot of time worrying about being sick during labour (I wasn’t). I felt like superwoman!! I was checked over at this point and had lost only 100ml of blood and even more amazingly, had no grazes or tears and therefore needed no stitches. I was so glad we’d spent all those weeks doing perineal massage!
We were left for an hour to feed and bond before they weighed her and wrapped her up for us. Then we got some breakfast before being able to transfer down to the baby hotel, where we have 2 nights in a hotel staffed by midwives that’s attached to the hospital, so we could get to know our little girl.
This birth has shown me that it’s really possible to have an incredibly positive birth, even if you’ve had previous tough experiences. The midwives were so happy that we were using hypnobirthing and told us how proud it makes them when women manage to have such positive births. I’m still pinching myself that it worked out this way. It has been a truly healing experience and any lasting sadness I have from the birth of our first daughter has been soothed by the knowledge of how incredible the birth of our second daughter was ❤️❤️❤️
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